Editorial: The path to becoming a city of trees

Published: 4/5/2019 12:05:05 AM

Concord has rightly been designated by the Arbor Day Foundation as one of America’s Tree Cities in recognition of its long-standing dedication to forestry management. The city was also recognized for its Sustainable Street Tree Program.

Street trees, particularly once they attain moderate size, confer many benefits on a neighborhood and the community at large: shade, which means less of a need for air-conditioning; control of storm runoff; removal of pollutants; beautification; and higher property values. But not all neighborhoods or households can afford to participate in the program.

The Street Tree Program uses trained city crews to expertly plant street trees in the front yards of residents who request a tree and can afford to pay $220 or more for it. Clearly, that leaves some people out.

Nationally, many studies have found that the poorer the neighborhood, the fewer the trees. Tree-poor neighborhoods also have poorer air quality, and higher incidences of asthma and deaths from heat-related causes.

Because it’s in New Hampshire, the second-most forested state in the nation after Maine, and because the city’s urban area is small and its size, at 67.5 square miles, large, Concord is home to far more trees than most communities. The city also has less disparity in tree cover between wealthy and poor neighborhoods than many places, but disparities exist.

Time is short. April 26 is Arbor Day. Before it arrives, Concord’s city council and city staff should consider giving residents the ability to pay to plant a tree, not in their own yard but on a street identified by the city as sorely in need of tree cover. The program could be similar to, though not so costly as, the city’s Adopt a Tree program used to help replace the red pines in Rollins Park felled by disease.

Before Arbor Day 2020, and certainly before the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day in 2022, Concord should create a street tree fund, donations to which would be tax deductible, and apply for grants to carry out an even more aggressive replanting effort, one that includes not only the planting of decorative species that don’t interfere with utility lines but stately shade trees like beech, oak, sugar maple and new disease resistant strains of elm and chestnut trees.

Next, Concord should investigate joining a trend being pioneered in places like Austin, Texas, and Washington’s King County. They are experimenting with selling carbon emission tax credits to help fund the replacement of urban trees, 36 million of which are lost to America’s metropolitan areas each year, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Like every city, Concord is losing many of its grand old giants. In some yards, only one of the husband and wife sugar maples planted to celebrate a couple’s move into their new home a century or more ago still stand. In older neighborhoods a stump 3 feet across marks the death of an old friend.

Replanting is a gift to the environment and the future.




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